Mitochondrial DNA Variation Contributes to the Aptitude for Dressage and Show Jumping Ability in the Holstein Horse Breed

Maternal lineages are considered an important factor in breeding. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is maternally inherited and plays an important role in energy metabolism. It has already been associated with energy consumption and performances, e.g., stamina in humans and racehorses. For now, corresponding studies are lacking for sport performance of warmblood breeds. MtDNA sequences were available for 271 Holstein mares from 75 maternal lineages. As all mares within a lineage showed identical haplotypes regarding the non-synonymous variants, we expanded our data set by also including non-sequenced mares and assigning them to the lineage-specific haplotype. This sample consisting of 6334 to 16,447 mares was used to perform mitochondrial association analyses using breeding values (EBVs) estimated on behalf of the Fédération Équestre Nationale (FN) and on behalf of the Holstein Breeding Association (HOL). The association analyses revealed 20 mitochondrial SNPs (mtSNPs) significantly associated with FN-EBVs and partly overlapping 20 mtSNPs associated with HOL-EBVs. The results indicated that mtDNA contributes to performance differences between maternal lineages. Certain mitochondrial haplogroups were associated with special talents for dressage or show jumping. The findings encourage to set up innovative genetic evaluation models that also consider information on maternal lineages.


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